From Silicon To Software

 

Q&A with Mariya Braylovska, R&D Director, on the Joy of Solving Technical Challenges with a Smart Team

women in engineering

By Editorial Team

Mariya Braylovska, director of R&D for Custom Design & Manufacturing at Synopsys, comes from a long line of innovators. In fact, her grandmother was one of the first female engineers in the Soviet Union over 100 years ago. Originally from Kiev, Ukraine, Mariya continues her family’s STEM legacy from Munich, Germany, where she and her team are helping to invent the future of technology. Recently, we sat down with Mariya, and she shared with us why mentoring her team and mastering technical challenges are among her greatest joys.  

Q: What are your key responsibilities at Synopsys?

A: As R&D director, I’m responsible for our product S-Litho™, the industry standard for predictive modeling of lithographic processes for semiconductors, and I’m also responsible for several adjacent products. I manage the development process, beginning with the collection of requirements and then planning the engineering phase and up through test and release.  

Q: What are some key milestones achieved by you and your team so far?

A: For the better part of a decade, our customers have widely recognized S-Litho as the gold-standard in reference for accurate simulation quality. When our customers recognize our quality in this way, it is especially meaningful. 

 We’ve also received a Synopsys code integrity award at the platinum level; it’s a rigorous internal recognition of quality achievement—it has stringent parameters. We first received this recognition five years ago. 

Q: Where are the opportunities for innovation in your team?

A: By their very nature, our tools are positioned on the forefront of technology because we are simulating manufacturing methods long before the methods are a part of production. And because of this, we require many innovative ideas. It’s exciting to see how these ideas germinate and are born into reality, eventually being implemented into effective software.  

To be a part of this innovative process makes me happy. And, as a manager, I work to motivate my team so they can understand how incredible it is to be part of this innovative process, too. To do this, I assign tasks that will challenge my team members and motivate them, so that they can be proud of delivering the best results. We have a lot of interrelated tasks in this work. So, we celebrate the outcome of what we do together as a team. 

S-Litho is currently part of many flows, and we develop and maintain our interfaces to be part of these flows. Because of the tool’s high quality, it increases the quality of the complete flows. And, boosting the quality of complete flows is also my team’s responsibility.  

Q: What made you decide to be an engineer? What do you most love about it?

A: I have always had an interest in technology. I love to discover new technologies together with my team. In fact, every engineer who discovers bugs, or other problems—whether it’s in the algorithm or timing or something else—and creates an elegant solution to solve for those problems, knows the joy of being an engineer.  It’s similar to the fun of being in school, solving math problems or building things. And, I loved this kind of schoolwork, so choosing engineering as a career path was a natural fit. 

Today, I enjoy being part of a team with interesting and complicated challenges to solve. I love the whole process. For instance, two engineers on my team might come together and discuss a challenge and put their ideas on paper. There’s always a lot of paper… And then after discussing the challenge, they finally write code together…and then they debug…and they throw the code away… They go through the whole process all over again, until they get it right. It can take weeks 

I help them to ask the right questions, support the development process, and work to move the idea forward. And when the challenge gets solved, the two engineers come together and shake hands. It makes me so happy when this complicated, interesting challenge is figured out. It’s a great sense of accomplishment. 

Q: How have the challenges for women evolved from when you first decided to go into engineering?  

A: I come from the former Soviet Union, from Kiev, Ukraine. My grandmother was one of the first female engineers in the Soviet Union. That was more than a 100 years ago. Prior to the communist revolution, in imperial Russia, it was not possible for women to be engineers or even to get an education.  This was true especially if you were Jewish, like my grandmother.  

But, after the revolution, women, Jews, everybody could get an education. My grandmother was a good student. She died when I was 15, so I knew her. This is why I knew it was possible to be an engineer. For me, there is no difference if you are a man or a woman. Growing up, it was not a big deal to have a good engineering position as a woman.  

What I see here at Synopsys is that you can find great conditions as a woman, and there are opportunities to grow in engineering. Women engineers are appreciated and supported. I feel this not only from my contacts in my functional work but also from adjacent departments, like HR and upper management. People are appreciative of the work female engineers do here, and a culture of diversity is encouraged at Synopsys.  

Q: What is your advice for young women just beginning their engineering careers? And how about for those who are interested in moving into management roles?

A: What I have learned is that women need to take risks like men do. So, take risks and follow your talent. Do not be afraid.  

As for me, I saw a big opportunity for a new team when Synopsys opened an office in St. Petersburg. It wasn’t easy to convince others on my proposal. I visited St Petersburg, on site, made interviews, and I had a lot of talks with key stakeholders, but still management was not convinced. I believed in the proposal, so I persisted by asking for approval to complete a test project to demonstrate the value, even before hiring people. Management approved, and the test was successful. So, that’s how I was promoted to build and manage the new team, and afterwards the responsibility grew. 

For a management position, first the opportunity needs to be there. If you want to be a manager and you see an opportunity, take a chance and apply, make your pitch. But being in management isn’t the only definition of success. Sometimes a woman or a man might be happier in a technical career, so whatever your calling is, you need to follow that.  

Q: In your opinion, what does gender diversity bring to the field of engineering?

A: It is essential to have gender diversity in engineering. In fact, a variety of perspectives and work styles are important for technical discussions. It’s not about a competition between genders or other classifications. Diversity provides a more natural team environment. The different views in discussion—and being open and honest—are critical for arriving at better answers.  

Here’s an example: Planning a project always needs a reliable estimation of effort. To estimate effort, an engineer must imagine features and functionality and have a good understanding of what it takes to produce them. While an experienced male engineer might say it takes two weeks to do a task, a female engineer of equal caliber might say three months for the same effort. But when we come together and discuss the reasons for the thinking, the reality is usually somewhere in the middle. So in this case, the diversity of thinking helps us plan and get closer to reality. 

Q: When you’re not working on solving complex technical challenges, what are some of your other passions?

A: I like to hike and motivate others to join me out of doors, especially when it’s challenging. I also enjoy cooking together with my husband. Since I’m in Munich, we enjoy making special Bavarian dishes such as sauerkraut and potato dumplings. In the cooking department, my husband takes the lead while I assist—and when it comes time to sit down, we enjoy what we’ve created together.  

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